|Review by llwynog||posted 05-09-2011 05:41 PM||10666 views||2 times favorited||21 comments|
Japanese handsaws are quite popular nowadays so I thought I’d introduce those who may not be familiar, to a saw which I was offered last year.
It is an ooga saw (?? in Japanese, pronounced Oh-ga, it means literally “big saw”)
This saw was designed to rip logs into planks and, just like the western pit saw, has seen its use being reduced to almost nothing during the 20th century. It was the tool of choice from the 15th century to about 1950.
The Ooga saw is large and heavy, really impressive in its size and drastically different from what I have always seen so far. Mine was bought on a flea market and sharpened and set by a specialized craftsman.
To give you an idea, the saw I received is of average size : about 80cm in length (31”), the blade itself is 50cm (20”) long by 32cm (13”) high. Its weight is about 3Kg (6.6lbs)
The blade is hand forged with the characteristic tapering of the blade (blade is thicker near the teeth than near the top edge – which reduces the need for a large set of the teeth). You can also see that the teeth increase in size along the blade making for an easier cut in the beginning.
I had to replace the handle as the handle that came with mine was completely rotten and falling to bits. I shaped mine out of ash which is not the kind of wood that would have been traditionally used but which is what I had. I tried to keep the same dimension and fastening method.
Now for the usage, I tried it against a peach tree lumber which was lying around at my parent’s house and I have to say I was impressed. It took only about 1 hour to saw through the 9” thick trunk and I can say in honesty that about 60% of that time was actually spent in trying to find a proper way to hold the lumber while sawing it.
What really impressed me was how straight the cut was. I am usually a poor sawyer and tend to drift easily but with this saw, although I started at an angle, the sawcut remained perfectly straight. You could put a straight edge on the resulting face and it looked as flat as you could dream. Also, the surface was extremely smooth (it actually appears rougher in the pictures than it felt in real life), much smoother than what most bandsaws produce when resawing such a thickness. It really felt like the saw was working on its own, I was “merely” there to move it back and force
Here is a picture I took from this website where you can see a really impressive trick : 2 sawyers are resawing a large log. They are sawing with 2 saws, one from each side and are synchronizing their actions so that they can saw a log which may even be wider than the blade of their tools (it forms an X pattern when viewed from above). You will notice that they are holding their saw horizontally, which is a position I tried also when sawing through the peach tree. Actually, I started sawing vertically and switched to sawing horizontally in the middle and yet the saw cut was perfectly flat, rather amazing. Also, you will notice that they are really making the most of their saw’s length : the sawyer on the left has but the very tip of the saw remaining in the kerf at its outmost stage of the movement.
I advise you to check at the above website, it is all in Japanese but the pictures themselves are interesting enough.
Oh yes, I am also told that with these saws, you sometimes spend more time sharpening and setting the teeth than doing the actual sawing itself. I have heard that a skilled user will tune the saw by changing the set of the teeth (and sometimes the sharpening angle) to match different species of trees.
OK, most of you will probably not be able to run and buy this kind of saw at your local home depot but I hope you enjoyed this review anyway.
Oh yes and I don’t own a bandsaw nor a chainsaw so guess how I am going to rip that cherry tree at my brother’s house this summer…
-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather